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Image courtesy Tennessee governor's office / This image shows the state's new license plate that will become available beginning Jan. 3. Vehicle owners can opt to include the "In God We Trust" motto, just as with current plates.

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday unveiled Tennessee's new standard license plate, scheduled to hit the roads in January.

The new plate discards the current light green tag that evokes the state's mountains, substituting a navy blue background with white letters and numbers. In its center is the state's Tri-Star emblem.

Lee offered residents an opportunity to choose the new plate in an online "Rate the Plate" contest. Three of the plates, including the winner, were similar. A fourth tag featured a white background and black lettering and numbers.

"In our 225th year of statehood, we invited Tennesseans to cast their vote and help select the state's next license plate," the Republican governor said in a news release. "I'm proud to announce the winning design that will represent our unique grand divisions and take its place in Tennessee history."

More than 300,000 Tennessee residents cast a vote, according to the governor's office, with 42% voting for the winning design.

The plates will be available online and in person beginning Jan. 3, as residents complete their annual tag renewal. Up to 100,000 plates per week will be produced to meet initial inventory demands.

State law says plates are to be redesigned every eight years if state lawmakers approve the funding in the annual budget. Funding for $15.37 million was included in the 2021-2022 appropriations act, using state Highway Fund dollars for the new license plate design and plate production, a review of the document shows.

State law also has several requirements. The plate must display "Tennessee," "Volunteer State" and "TNvacation.com," as well as the decal locations for county name and expiration.

The law provides that Tennesseans may select an "In God We Trust" plate option, just as they do now, without paying an additional charge.

Tennessee's standard license plate has remained largely the same since 2006 when then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, discarded the previous tag approved by former Gov. Don Sundquist. Sundquist's chosen plate prominently featured a rising orange sun. Critics at the time charged it resembled his campaign signs.

Bredesen, an outdoorsman, replaced it with a more soothing green color displaying mountains in the background and black lettering. While that's been tweaked over the years, it's remained largely the same.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

(READ MORE: Tennessee gamer hopes to 'pwn' state in lawsuit over 'offensive' license plate)

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